Can you notarize this photograph?

A notary should be prepared to explain to a client that notary law does not allow notaries merely to place their official notary seal and official notary signature on a document or photo in order to make it acceptable by the receiving party. A notary is almost always required to administer an oath or take an acknowledgment and complete a notarial certificate pertaining to the notarial act he or she performed.

A good way to answer a request to notarize a photograph is to say, "I cannot simply place my notary seal on the photograph. However, if you brought me a written statement about that photograph, I could assist you. You would need to sign the statement in my presence. Then, I could notarize your signed statement."

The owner of the photograph may not understand the meaning of what you said, so he may further ask, Then what should I write?

The notary's response should be, I am unable to tell you what to write. I can only notarize your signature. For instance, if you presented me a document attached to a photograph of a dog that said, The dog in the attached photograph belongs to John Doe who lives in New York, New York, I could notarize your signature on that statement.

In this hypothetical situation, the photograph owner may then reply, But it isn't a picture of a dog; it is a picture of my antique car. I need a notarized photograph because my insurance has requested it.

The notary could then respond, I cannot tell you what to write about your car or the photograph, but if you present a written statement to me about the photograph of your car, I can notarize your signature on that statement.

The photograph owner may be frustrated by this approach and reject your answer. If that happens, you may disappoint him, but you have not done the wrong thing. On the other hand, if the person does further pursue your service by presenting you a written statement that they have created, you can assist him.

To be prepared for this situation, you will need examples of notary certificates available to show your client. You can purchase notary certificates from the American Association of Notaries for a very reasonable fee, or you can type your own certificates in accordance with the approved statutory notary certificates of your state's commissioner of notaries.

Provide the photograph owner with examples of a jurat and an acknowledgment and let him pick the one he feels is more appropriate for his needs. You may then complete it according to your notary rules.

Anticipating this request and preparing for it is will make it possible to accommodate potential clients of this type without frustration and, more importantly, without violating notary laws.

-- Brenda Stone Editor with the American Association of Notaries

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